Starting on a cold November morning, somewhere in the range of zero degrees Celsius, I headed to the meeting point across the road from the Munich Train Station, crunching the ice on the footpath and trying my hardest not to slip up. Finally boarding the bus to get out of the cold, I got to meet fellow travellers for our sojourn into the Bavarian Alpine Region mainly to see the castles of King Ludwig II.
The guide we had was very informative pointing out various points of interest within Munich and nearby surrounds before we headed in a southerly direction towards and through the Alps.
Coming from Australia, I have never observed scenery like this, especially during a snow season. With each turn it looked like we were heading into another mountain range with all mountains being covered in snow. It was such a surreal feeling and for me, that I found it very hard to comprehend. Whilst people were napping, I was so transfixed on the views that I just get going on about how beautiful it was. One of the more interesting aspects for me was seeing local German villagers skiing to undertake their normal daily activities, not so much in the city areas but from country property to another. To be honest, it looked like a lot of hard work. It is no wonder Germans are so fit and very competitive in the alpine events at each Winter Olympics.
The first stop of the tour was the Linderhof Castle. It is the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II and the only one of which he lived to see completion. To me it was like a winter wonderland, with everything under many inches of snow. We were able to tour inside the castle but due to damage caused by camera flashes were not able to take photos in the Castle. The attention to detail on the inside was nothing short of amazing. It was clear to all how much money King Ludwig II had at his disposal. To think that this was the smallest of the castles, we can only imagine what we will see later on today.
After trudging through the snow, we boarded the bus for our next stop at a lovely little town called Oberammergau. Oberammergau is famous for its “Lüftlmalerei,” or frescoes, of traditional Bavarian themes, fairy tales, or religious scenes found on many homes and buildings. It is also known as the home of a long tradition of woodcarving. The streets of central Oberammergau are home to dozens of woodcarver shops, with pieces ranging from religious subjects, to toys, to humorous portraits.
This is the sort of town a young child would love as the art artwork on the buildings always tells a story. Whilst it was covered in snow, there was a warm feeling about the place and the locals were very friendly, even if they couldn’t direct us accurately to the Little Red Riding Hood Story house. We did see others but that was the one we wanted to see the most.
The views towards the Alps were also to behold and one could only imagine what it would be like to spend Christmas is a town like this. I feel you could truly understand the meaning the Christmas at this very place. A nice warm dinner, Christmas lights on display, carols being sung and not to mention the Christmas markets which are very much a German tradition.
We were allowed about 45 minutes to explore the town before heading to lunch at Hohenschwangua which is a very small village between the Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles. For lunch we stopped off at a local hotel and as I do when in Germany I always have to have the apple strudel for desert. There is nothing better than a traditional hot apple strudel on a cold day. Prior to that I had a roast pork which was good, but I really only wanted the desert.
Due to time restraints we could only tour one of the two castles and coming all this way, the only castle I wanted to see inside was the Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle was built in the 19th century on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The palace was commissioned by King Ludwig II as a retreat and as homage to Richard Wagner. The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886.
I must admit the Hohenschwangau Castle looks more spectacular from ground level but it isn’t as famous or well known. It is a 19th century palace and was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II that was built by his father, King Maximilian of Bavaria. It is only a short walk up a hill to get there and would be worth seeing if you have the time to allow for it.
To enter Neuschwanstein Castle you need to walk up a slope, well more like a hill, which is not as strenuous as one would think, to obtain an entry ticket and this ticket then allocates your time for your tour time. Whilst waiting you can wander around the outside, taking in the views of the surrounding areas, imagining how good the view would be from Mary’s Bridge (was closed at this time of year), practising your snowball throwing or enjoying a warm cup of coffee or a beer while looking at souvenirs.
You might be thinking this the same castle that is commonly known as the Disneyland Castle and you are correct. Having seen the one at Disneyland I can confirm the original is so much better. The sheer size of the walls, the gates, etc is much bigger than you possibly think, even though some would say the castle is not as big as they would expect. I guess some people are not satisfied either way. To me, seeing it in the winter time is more special as when objects are covered in snow, there is more of a romance to it.
Once inside the castle you are once again not allowed to take photos, much to my annoyance. The first thing that strikes you about it is the amount of gold used in the decorations. I know some people like to flaunt how much money they have, but his level of richness is something to behold. Also the artwork on the inside would look just at home at either the Louvre in Paris or the Hermitage in St Petersberg.
One of the more interesting facts is in the dining room, where he would sit facing a mirror. This was so he felt like he was having dinner with someone else. I guess even if you are a King, there is still a feeling of loneliness at times.
Once we finished the tour inside and wished we had the riches, we headed back down the hill as darkness was setting in to pile back into the bus for the trip back into Munich. This was a perfect time to catch up on some sleep, look back over our photos or just chat with others. Finally we arrived back in the city, dropping us back off where we started, saying our farewells to the guide and driver, before heading back to our accommodations.
Snow Covered Stairs Neuschwanstein Castle
Looking Down from Neuschwanstein Castle
Building Facade in Oberammergau
‘ A Day Tour into the Bavarian Alpine Region of Germany’ was contributed to TravelTripz.com.au in May 27 2010, by Tony Sinclair, a freelance writer and photographer who has traveled extensively.
Tony is involved with Adelaide Walks which is a Free Saturday Morning Walking Tour around Adelaide city and park lands. The walks are primarily aimed towards backpackers although anyone who is visiting Adelaide can benefit from getting to know their way around Adelaide with the assistance of a local personality.